Winning or losing on the pitch can lead to vastly different commercial outcomes, helping to create a very saleable drama for the entertainment of a vast global audience. And yet, clubs enjoy a relationship with their fans that appears to exist on a different planet. Win or lose, play well or badly – the fans will still be fans. They may spend a little more or a little less, they may grumble or gloat – but they will return, week after week, year after year. Imagine how much a high-street brand would pay for loyalty on that scale?
Clubs know this of course, yet are only just starting to get to grips with fan engagement. The stadium crowd might have been the driver of success for many years, but the potential lies with the wider audience too. The football fan-base as a whole is an unbelievable asset, one which should yield a lifetime of value – and yet is sold to as if the next £1 might be the last. Blatant leveraging of the club crest to sell expensive credit cards and endless shirt redesigns isn’t the way to create long-term value. And the solution isn’t complex new technology and gimmicks, or harvesting Facebook likes as an extension of on-field bragging rights. It’s simply the application of some insight-led customer journey planning, and a more creative approach to bringing fans closer to the club – wherever they are.
Twenty years ago, this required significant investment. In the digital age it doesn’t, and there are three big areas of opportunity.
- First, it’s a big world. The Premier League has around 1.46bn followers worldwide. Stadium capacity means that around 760,000 could attend a match. This leaves 1.459 billion to be engaged. Even if only 1% spend £60 a year, the revenue coming back to Premier Clubs could reach nearly £900m. All the clubs need are the tools to reach these fans, and then provide them with real value. For example, subscription products, exclusive content, or maybe even selected crowd sourcing and paid-for fan voting rights for the more visionary clubs.
- Second, sell ‘em what they want to buy. Even in the depths of recession, fans will still spend money – a 2012 study showed that the average game-attending fan spends around £1,277 per year following their team. A 10% increase across just 20,000 fans would generate £2.5m a year, a figure some basic data segmentation and insight work could quickly and cost-effectively achieve.
- Third, get organised! The data available to clubs is incredible. Fans are happy to exchange insight about themselves in return for privileges and offers. The challenge comes in making sure this wealth of information is useful and usable. Many clubs have done some of this, but by no means all. How much value could be gained by having all your data in one place, and every new campaign building on that knowledge and understanding? It’s all possible, and done correctly can bring much needed extra revenue to all clubs – not just those with the biggest crowds.
Nick Elsom is Client Services Director of Underwired, a specialist CRM agency, renowned for helping its clients drive value from their customer relationships